Thousands of people marched through the streets of Hollywood today to observe the 97th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide and to call for the Turkish government to take responsibility for the deaths of about 1.5 million people.
The Turkish government has questioned the number of deaths and denies it was a genocide.
The march, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, included thousands of protesters, some carrying flags or banners as they walked along Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. Another protest is scheduled later this afternoon in front of the Turkish consulate.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council conducted their annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration on April 20 in the Rotunda of City Hall, hosted by Councilmember Paul Krekorian, who is the first Armenian American to sit on the council. He was joined by former City Council President Eric Garcetti, City Councilmember Dennis Zine, and City Controller Wendy Greuel, who each offered remarks remembering the genocide.
Krekorian honored activists for their years of leadership in the Armenian American community, and for their efforts in educating and raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide. Recipients included the executive director of ANCA Glendale, Elen Asatryan; the chairman of the ANCA San Fernando Valley West, Nareg Kitsinian; the editor-in-chief of Asbarez English, Ara Khachatourian; film director Ara Soudjian; Pilibos student Natalie Kalbakian; the principal of the Ferrahian Armenian School, John Kossakian; and longtime ANCA activist Garen Yeghparian.
Among those taking part in today's march in Hollywood was Rep. Adam Schiff, D- Pasadena, who penned a resolution calling on President Barack Obama to officially recognize the events of 1915 -- when Armenians were forced out of their homeland by Ottoman Turks -- as a genocide.
"Denial of genocide is the final chapter of genocide, it's like a double killing," Schiff told Fox11. "It's an additional trauma to the victims of genocide to deny that it ever took place. We don't want to be complicit in that."
Obama, who said during his presidential campaign that he would recognize the genocide, has yet to do so. In a statement today, he referred to the killings as "one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century," and he called for a "full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts."
"Moving forward with the future cannot be done without reckoning with the facts of the past," Obama said.
Los Angeles County is home to the largest population of Armenians in the U.S., nearly 194,000 people, according to 2010 U.S. census estimates. About a third of Glendale residents are of Armenian descen, and a significant number also live in the North Hollywood area. The Board of Supervisors declared today a "Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923," and Supervisor Michael Antonovich condemned the atrocities.
"Due to this horrible tragedy, the Armenian community is committed to ensuring that those who were tortured, enslaved, forcibly tattooed as property and killed during this massacre are never forgotten," Antonovich said. "By consistently remembering and openly condemning the atrocities committed against the Armenians, Los Angeles County demonstrates its sensitivity to the need for constant vigilance to prevent similar events in the future."
The genocide is commemorated April 24 because that was the day in 1915 that about 300 Armenian leaders were rounded up and deported or killed, and about 5,000 poor Armenians were killed in and around Istanbul.